Thanks for returning after the summer break! In the States I rarely took a real vacation, so I am happy at age 66 to spend three wonderful months away from St Petersburg in the beautiful countryside around Lake Vseluug which is part of the Volga water system.
After many years in St Petersburg, I feel comfortable living here, with no wish to return to America. Now I am used to the drawbacks of Russian life, see many benefits, and on balance still enjoy it here.
This is Russia...
It took me a long time to realize that Russians can have a gruff exterior, but be very friendly when spoken to. It seems in this stoic culture more important to know the language than in a socially extroverted one.
Russians tend to the extremes of shyness and warmth, tell the truth at inconvenient times, and can see through phoniness. Russians often hesitate to be social, but when they are, it's with gusto... drinking, singing, and warm hospitality.
It is a mistake to think that Russia is similar to the USA. It has less than half the population, and it's decreasing. (1.) Its road system is still behind the times and needs much work. Once you leave the larger cities you won't see motels along the road waiting for you to pull in.
(1.) Russia had 141 million, the USA 304 million estimated in July, 2008.
The police respond to crime. They do not view prevention or detection important parts of their work.
Russians as a rule do not think about accident prevention. Handrails are rare, there is no elevator inspection form on the wall, no white lines on steps, stores often do not clean the walkway outside, and excavation sites are often not well fenced in to protect strollers.
I miss American friendliness, initiative, and the willingness to help others, even strangers. Yankees have a can-do response, while many Russians hold back from taking the initiative.
Here it is difficult to get information about what your neighbor is building. Officials feel it is their responsibility to keep government information private and out of the wrong hands.
I believe that a democratic culture grows slowly and is easily stifled whether here or in the USA. Realistically the top-down government of Russia will not change to a down-up one for many years, if ever, as the people are used to rule from above.
Unfortunately Americans extend their wish to help strangers to the modern missionary imperative of aggressive war for the natives' own good... Afghanistan this year, Iraq the last several years.
I see the Russian people as more pacific than Americans. The American weakness that tends towards poor reasoning and aggressiveness is an embarrassment to those who want Russia to adopt some of the democratic ideas that America talks about.
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As time goes on we will look at what is mentioned above with a spotlight on one aspect for a post.
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